Meme-Busting: Tort Reform = Cost Control
On June 2, 2011 the Washington Post published an article written by Aaron Carroll, a doctor, highlighting the upcoming presidential election and health care reform.
"With the presidential election coming up, and health care still a hot issue, I’ve been preparing a series to highlight some of the “memes” that continue to permeate our debate, even when evidence suggests they aren’t true.
For better or for worse, whenever many are asked about how they would help control the cost of the health-care system, tort reform always seems to be one of the first things offered as a solution.
The argument goes that doctors, afraid of being sued, order lots of extra tests and procedures to protect themselves. This is known as defensive medicine. Tort reform assumes that if we put a cap on the damages plaintiffs can win, then filing cases will be less attractive, fewer claims will be made, insurance companies will save money, malpractice premiums will come down, doctors will feel safer and will practice less defensive medicine, and health-care spending will go way down.
Ergo, tort reform = cost control.
Let’s start with some basics. How much does the malpractice system really cost in the U.S.? The most recent, comprehensive estimate, which was published in Health Affairs in December, estimated that medical liability system costs were about $55.6 billion in 2008 dollars, or about 2.4 percent of all U.S. health-care spending. Some of that was indemnity payments, and some of it was the cost of components like lawyers, judges, etc.; most of this, however, or about $47 billion, was defensive medicine. So yes, that is real money, and it theoretically could be reduced.
The question is, will tort reform do that?"
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